Kumano Kodo And Kumano Sanzan
Kumano, in the southern part of Kii peninsula, is an ancient sacred area known for the three grand shrines: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. The shrines are collectively known as Kumano Sanzan. Seven hiking trails connect these three shrines. These hiking trails are known as known as Kumano Kodo. In the olden days, people hiked the demanding trails of Kumano Kodo to visit the shrines and attain spiritual enlightenment.
A hike through the Kumano Kodo is definitely the best way to experience this spiritual journey. However if, like me, you don’t have the luxury of time, you can do a day trip to Kumano Nachi Taisha from Tokyo. The following sections are a travel guide for the day trip.
Day Trip From Tokyo to Kumano Nachi Taisha and Nachi Falls
A day trip from Tokyo to Kumano Nachi Taisha is a little heavy on travel time. You have to change several buses and trains and the one-way journey takes up to 6 hours. This means that you will have only an hour or two to enjoy the incredible views. If time permits, I would recommend staying there atleast a night or two to take in the beauty of the place.
A day trip to Kumano Nachi Taisha and Nachi Falls from Tokyo is possible mainly due to the super fast and efficient Shinkansen (bullet trains) that cover 7 to 8 hour journeys in a matter of 2 to 3 hours. Plan this itinerary carefully as the schedule is absolutely packed and a slight miscalculation may cause you to miss a train/bus. You also have to leave very early in the morning to spend more time at Nachisan.
There are two possible ways to get from Tokyo to Kumano Nachi Taisha. One is from Tokyo to Kii-Katsuura via Nagoya and the other is through Shin-Osaka. The route from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka and then to Kumano Nachi Taisha takes longer. Hence, I will explain only the first route here:
Tokyo -> Nagoya
1. Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya from either Tokyo station or Shinagawa station. It’s better to board the Shinkansen from Shinagawa as the station is not as crowded and confusing as Tokyo station. Depending on the Shinkansen you choose – Nozomi, Hikari or Kodama, it can take from 1hr 40min (Nozomi), 1hr 50min(Hikari) to 3hrs(Kodama) from Tokyo to Nagoya. For the day trip, avoid Kodama as it takes longer to travel from Tokyo to Nagoya. If you are a JR Rail Pass holder, choose Hikari as it’s fast and the cost of the journey is covered by the pass.
Nagoya -> Kii-Katsuura
2. From Nagoya, take the JR Nanki Limited Express, also known as Wide-view Nanki, to Kii-Katsuura . To cut the wait time in Nagoya, plan and reserve your seats on the Wide-view Nanki in advance. The staff at the JR ticket office will help you pick the train time more effectively. If you are a JR Rail Pass holder, most of the trip is covered. I say most because a part of the track from Kawarada to Tsu is not owned by JR. Hence, you have to pay an extra charge of 820 Yen to the ticket collector on board the Wide-view Nanki. This journey takes upto 4hrs. It’s a bit exhausting. However, the scenery through the large windows of the Wide-View Nanki make up for it. Check out the gorgeous scenery in this video.
Kii-Katsuura -> Kumano Nachi Taisha
3. From Kii- Katsuura station, board a local bus that makes stops at Nachi Station, Daimon Zaka, Nachi-no-Taki-mae (Nachi Waterfalls) and Nachi San. The local bus stops right outside the station. The time-table for this bus can be found here: Kii Katsuura Bus Time-Table . Alternatively, if you are running out of time and can afford a taxi, you can hire a taxi outside the train station to take you around the sites.
The total travel time one-way from Tokyo to Kii-Katsuura is around 5 hrs 50 minutes. Remember, the JR Nanki Limited Express is not as frequent as the Shinkansen. Confirm the last train from Kii-Katsuura back to Nagoya to avoid being stuck there. In my case, the last train from Kii-Katsuura to Nagoya was at 5:11 pm. Consult JR Ticket Office or HyperDia to plan your travel.